It is rare these days to come across a person who is able to eat a wide array of foods, maintain a healthy weight, and not suffer any ill effects from what they choose to consume. Most of us know people who must restrict their diets because of problems like food sensitivities that cause gastrointestinal pain and digestive problems, problems with glucose utilization that causes diabetes, and the multifactorial dysregulation of metabolism that has led to our current obesity epidemic.
These people, our friends and family, are often confused by the disconnect between what they are told by their healthcare providers and what they are sold in supermarkets and fast food restaurants. The pseudo-foods created by the processed food industry are laden with refined sugars, salt, and poor-quality fats and lack vital nutrients. Moreover, such foods are targeted to children and play havoc with their digestion and metabolism. Pseudo-foods often contain ingredients such as corn and soy. These crops are heavily subsidized and allow purveyors of processed foods to sell them cheaply.
Consumers of all economic levels are finding it more and more difficult to purchase organic whole foods not only because of the increased cost but often also limited access. In some areas, most of the available food is processed, prepackaged, and high in excess salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats.
Even if you are fortunate enough to have the income and access to buy organic produce and pastured meat, there is disagreement among researchers about what, when, and how we should eat. Which style of eating is best, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or omnivore? Raw food only? Cooked food only? Should we intermittently fast? Should we eat whole grains or any grains at all? Eggs and nutritious fats that were for decades out are now back on the menu. It is hard to know what to do and who to trust.
Trial and Error
Aside from our desire to choose foods that will promote longevity and well-being, there are many among us who must avoid certain foods that have become detrimental to our health. By trial and error, some people have discovered that their myriad symptoms, including digestive distress, weight gain, and impaired glucose metabolism, resolve when they avoid gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, eggs, grains, or any combination of these common foods. It is hard to imagine, but a supposedly healthy food may actually be killing you from the inside out. Unfortunately, many people with such problems are still searching for a solution. You may be one of these people and that is why True Wellness for Your Gut was written.
If long rounds of testing and different dietary modifications fail to improve gastrointestinal and metabolic conditions, healthcare providers are finally advocating examining underlying physical and emotional stress as a possible cause of these problems. We feel strongly that stress management should be addressed concurrently with dietary and life-style strategies. There are many excellent books available that examine these issues from a predominantly Western perspective. That approach is entirely valid. This book, True Wellness for Your Gut, examines the science that underlies both Western and Eastern modalities, which can both strongly and positively influence your body's response to chronic stress.
After giving you an understanding of what may be causing your condition, we concentrate on lifestyle interventions that will help restore your health and well-being.
Sometimes hard questions need to be asked and answered. Are you happy? Do you feel safe in your own home or neighborhood? Are you treated with respect by your family or in your work environment? Very often, physical or emotional abuse predates these conditions, and the earlier in life this abuse occurs, the greater the likelihood that illness will follow. Of course, we cannot forget about physical stressors such as poor sleep, shift work, overwork, and lack of exercise. Qigong, meditation, and acupuncture can facilitate your healing by decreasing stress, improving your sleep and exercises routine, and enhancing the function of your gastrointestinal system.
Many people assume that if digestive and metabolic diseases run in their families they are doomed to a similar fate. In most cases, this is simply not true. We now know from the study of advanced genetics, called epigenetics, that the way genes are expressed as physical conditions can be modified by the food you eat, the quality and quantity of your sleep, your exercise regimen—and even your thoughts! Even though the way you eat, working too much, and sleeping too little may have contributed to your health problems, the good news is that it is never too late to improve your condition if you are willing to make these positive lifestyle modifications. We have seen our patients adopt these changes and reap the benefits. We know you can too!
Eastern medicine has always been a whole-systems approach to health. So often, modifying general lifestyle behaviors will lead to improvements in a vast array of medical conditions. Gastrointestinal problems, diabetes, and obesity are prime examples of illnesses that Western medicine has had difficulty treating, even with high-tech procedures and pharmaceuticals. Failure often occurs because patients and doctors alike have such faith in cutting-edge medical advances that they think they do not need to pay attention to the root cause of an illness, and that surgery or medication alone can and will solve the problem. That may be true initially, but if no changes are made to the internal and external environment in which the illness developed, then it is very likely the illness will recur.
This is where combining Eastern and Western medicine can have the greatest impact. By all means, take advantage of the often life-saving techniques of modern science, but remember to go back to basics. True Wellness for Your Gut is designed to highlight and explain the importance of sleep, exercise, nutrition, and mindfulness to gastrointestinal and metabolic conditions. There is a lot of overlap in our recommendations for people with any or all of these diseases. That is the nature of the whole-systems approach of Eastern medicine and all other holistic medical practices.
We hope you will be patient with us when we repeatedly, but gently, remind you to apply these tried-and-true foundational healing behaviors to your daily life: sleep adequately, breathe deeply, eat nutritiously, move mindfully, and ensure that you make time for a pursuit that brings you joy.
Wishing you every success on your road to optimal health.
The above is an excerpt from True Wellness for Your Gut: How to Combine the Best of Western and Eastern Medicine for Optimal Digestion, Glucose Metabolism and Weight Control by Catherine Kurosu, MD, LAc and Aihan Kuhn, CMD, OBT, Published by YMAA Publication Center, Pub Date October, 2020, ISBN: 9781594397455